Holla State of Hockey legion, and Happy Independence Day to all of the Wild fans in Mauritania, which earned its independence from France on this day in 1960. Next year is going to be the big 50th anniversary of that historic event, but we're still going to go big with the 49th anniversary by rocking a live in-game commentary featuring the Colorado Avalanche and YOUR Minnesota Wild on this Saturday night.
Tonight, I am coming to you live from my Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota palace with my faithful sidekick for road games, Ivy the yellow lab. She is currently working on a Nyla-bone, which is her Wild gameday ritual. My gameday ritual is to let dozens of you know what is going on during each Wild game (except yesterday's when I had the day off and Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel was clacking the keys for his R.S.S. Feed).
Stanzel is currently in Denver, which is 5,820 feet above sea level. If my calcuations are correct, that would be one entire mile above sea level. Thus, I have coined the nickname "Mile High City" for Denver, Colorado. Feel free to use that Coloradans. The least I can do is give your city a cool nickname because right now you're about 30 minutes from Josh Harding
crushing your spirit with a brilliant goaltending performance. Harding was exceptional in his last start in Washington, and you're in for more of the same. In about three hours, Harding is going to supplant that Balloon Boy's father as the most reviled man in your mountainous state. The difference is that it's Harding's job to make you angry. Mr. Balloon Boy just thought it was his job to initiate a hoax involving his son and several members of the Colorado police force.
Harding isn't going to need a lot of help tonight, but he might need some, so Jaime "Not Jamie" Sifers will be patrolling the blue line tonight for the Wild for the first time since his call up yesterday. Big John Scott will also be in there because Marek Zidlicky will be out of the lineup with a lower body injury. Antti Miettinen is home sick, and Martin Havlat is still working his way back from a strained hammy. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Petr Sykora and Brent Burns are still concussed.
As for wardrobe, the Wild will go with the road white ensemble for tonight's away game. The Avalanche will go with the home burgundies, trimmed in blue, white and black with the snowy "A" on the chest.
Now I know there are a lot of entertainment options out there on Saturday nights, especially on a long weekend. So I want to thank you for spending your Saturday in front of your computer for some lengthy reading. It's the latest thing. All the cool kids are doing it. Away we go!Period 1
17:37 - Four gloves are on the ice and that means four fists are flying around. They belong to Big John Scott and David Koci. This is a long-lasting battle as the two heavyweights grapple and get a few punches in. Neither can deliver a knockout, but I'm giving Scott the decision to keep him undefeated on the year. Credit Koci with being able to remove his own hat in the middle of the tussle.
16:17 - You can't teach this method of taking a slap shot, it's just God-given talent. Greg Zanon gets a pass at the point, and with one leg raised behind him (think male dog marking his territory) Zanon leans into his slapper and lands face first on the ice, but the shot does get through to Craig Anderson. I imagine there might be a few barbs thrown Zanon's way as he reaches the bench with a sly smile.
13:22 - Josh Harding
gets tested for the first time tonight as a centering pass hits off the side of his net and bounces out to Wojtek Wolski in front. He doesn't get great wood on his shot, but Harding is moving the opposite direction and has to kick his right leg out to make a beg stop.11:38 - MIN 0 - COL 1 - The Avs strike first on a pretty play by Chris Durno, who carries the puck into the Wild zone and makes a nifty move around a defender. He then slides the puck over to a streaking Matt Hendricks, and the former Blaine Bengal fires one over Harding's glove and into the top shelf. Hendricks did a lot of this when the Bengals shut out my alma mater, Duluth East, 6-0 in the 2000 State Championship game.
10:20 - The Wild does what you'd hope they would do after giving up a goal. They come flying back like gangbusters. Shortly after Derek Boogaard nearly tips one in, newcomer Guillaume Latendresse
has two whacks at the puck from the doorstep. His first attempt goes off a Colorado defender and somehow, a sprawling Anderson knocks it down out of midair.
9:00 - Good call by the zebras here. The puck gets popped up in front of the Wild net, and it's batted out of the air by Matt Duchene, and then it hits Mikko Koivu
and goes into the net. The refs immediately wave off the goal even though Koivu touches it before it goes in. The replays confirm that it was a high stick and it doesn't matter that the puck hit Koivu before going in. No goal, folks.
3:34 - The Wild continues to buzz as Nolan makes a great play in the Colorado zone with a defender draped all over him. He's able to dish the puck to Latendresse, who gets another solid shot off but Anderson makes another big save. Anderson is an early Vezina trophy candidate and he's showing why. 2:20 - MIN 0 - COL 2 - Drat. The Avalanche connect on their first power play of the night. Harding wants a penalty called on David Jones because the Wild netminder is put down on his kiester as the puck gets passed over to Matt Duchene who has an easy time putting the shot over a prone Harding. The replays show the zebras are right again. It is actually Kim Johnsson whose stick trips up his own goaltender on the play as he battles Jones.
0:00 - That will do it for the first, which was just one of those funny periods. The Wild really controlled the play and had more scoring chances, but the Avs capitalized on theirs and here we stand with a 2-0 deficit.Period 2
19:04 - MIN 1 - COL 2 - BOOM goes the dynamite! Eric Belanger, who had been held without a goal in the month of November (or Movember), steals the puck from Scott Hannan in the neutral zone and races the other way on a two-on-one. Belanger is going to take matters into his own hands and he unleashes a howitzer that blows by Anderson and cuts the Colorado lead in half.
15:15 - Anderson appears to have some anger issues. After he makes a nice stop on a point shot, he gloves a bouncing puck and then freaks out about Kyle Brodziak
being near him on the play and trying to bang in a loose puck even though it appears Brodziak never makes contact.
14:33 - John-Michael Liles is shaking his head increduously as he skates to the bench after getting called for cross checking. He's got a good point. I mean, since when is it a penalty to slam a guy in the face with a crosscheck as he's falling down and driving him headfirst into the ice? That's just playing hard, isn't it?
7:40 - The Wild is just completely controlling the puck in this game, and especially in this period. They are resembling the Detroit Red Wings of the last five years when they played against Minnesota. Basically, they just played keep away with the puck and rarely let Wild players get possession. The Wild is doing the same thing, controlling the play and winning the races to all of the loose pucks. Now, it's just a matter of finishing.
4:10 - Save...of...the year. With the Wild on the power play, Paul Stastny steals the puck from Kim Johnsson and has a breakaway. He tries to go upstairs on Harding, who pulls out the ol' deck pad glove save, and he catches this shot at its apex. Wow! We'll have to get footage of this one for Wild.com.
0:59.0 - On the power play, Nick Schultz snaps his stick in half on an attempted slapper. The puck slowly makes its way toward the net and Koivu has it on the doorstep, but he can't stick in in the short side, and is wraparound on the other side is also snuffed out.Period 3
19:17 - Belanger is doubled over in pain on the bench after a puck deflects off a stick and gets him right in the grill.
14:06 - A freak play here as James Sheppard reaches to poke the puck past Anderson and it pops over the Avs keeper to the other side, where Ebbett is battling with Adam Foote. The puck hits somewhere up high on Ebbett (either the glove or the stick) and then bounces off the leg of Foote and into the net. Initially, it's called a goal, but they go to a review of it and it is eventually waved off. As much as we needed this one, it appears again that the correct call is eventually made. It basically is a replica of the Colorado non-goal that was waved off earlier tonight. Still, I wouldn't have felt bad if the refs had gotten it wrong. I'm no angel.8:46 - MIN 2 - COL 2 - Welcome to Minnesota Guillaume Latendresee, or as I would like to call him, G-Lat, because it's much easier on the ol' phalanges. From a very shallow angle, Cowboy Nolan throws the puck toward the goal, and Anderson knocks it right into the slot with his waffle glove. G-Lat does a great job of making contact with the bouncing puck and he puts it into the wide open net. He looks like a very happy guy after scoring his first-ever goal in a Wild sweater.
6:52 - Kaboom! Sheppard absolutely smashes David Jones in the neutral zone with a bone rattling hit. Jones has his head down and Sheppard makes him pay. Foote then comes in to have some words with Sheppard, who appears to laugh it off, knowing he made a big, clean hit. Sherriff Shane Hnidy gets in there to let Foote know that he's not letting anything go down at this point.
5:09 - Cue the bowling pins sound effect normally reserved for the youth games at intermission. Kobasew gets checked to the ice and he lands on Jones' leg, and he goes down to the ice and then Stastny trips over him, and yes, he goes down to the ice as well. Jones has to be helped off the ice because he definitely had his leg bend a way that it shouldn't when Kobasew fell into him.
0:00 - The Wild is going to come away with a point for the fourth straight game, but we're looking for the deuce tonight. It will take overtime for that to happen, however. Overtime
2:23 - Coronary averted. A Colorado shot hits traffic and pops up in the air and floats toward the goal. Harding tries to glove it Joe Mauer style and the puck drops down in the crease but slides wide of the net.
0:00 - A rather uneventful overtime ends scoreless. That means we're headed to the shootout, where the Wild haven't been amazing this year, but things are going to change tonight. I can feel it.Shootout
The Avs opt to go first, and Marek Svatos will lead it off. He tries to go high, but Harding gets his blocker on it to make the save. Koivu, the only Wild player to score in the shootout this season, is up now for the Wild, and he goes to the patented backhand lift, and he buries it. It is just so pretty.
Wolski is next for Colorado. He makes a ridiculous dipsy-do trying to pull it to the other side than his body is going, but Harding makes an even more ridiculous kick save. Ebbett can end it here, and he actually loses control for a split second, but he's able to regain control, and then slide a backhand underneath Anderson. It's over! The Wild has a shootout win!